The Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament, a summer long single-elimination culinary competition, featuring 16 local restaurants and chef teams has begun. The tournament, which began in 2010, has moved back to Baltimore City this year, and found a new home at Mari Luna Bistro (1225 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, MD 21201) right in the heart of the cultural district. I am also excited to be back on the judging panel again this year after I took a “maternity” leave from judging.
This year’s tournament looks to be the best year yet, and has some exciting new features to offer guests, all included with their admission:
- Each week of the tournament will feature a geographic region. Chef teams will be required to keep that theme as they create and prepare an appetizer, entrée and dessert using featured products from tournament sponsors.
- Happy Hour will include wine and spirit tasting each evening, with different vintners and distributors hosting and bringing some interesting and different things to try each week, like a Tequila tasting and a Punch Bowl tasting, as well as traditional wine tasting.
- Happy Hour will also include hors d’ouerves prepared by Mari Luna Bistro using featured products from some of the tournament’s top sponsors.
- A dessert bar and coffee will be provided at the end of each evening throughout the competition.
My first judging night was on Monday, June 24,2013 with Andrew Kopp from Waterfront Kitchen versus Jirat Suphrom In from MyThai – check it out.
I was back again on Tuesday, July 16th with Christopher Lewis from Iron Bridge Wine Co. versus Josh Handel of Josh Handel’s Catering & Personal Chef Service.
Chef Lewis graduated from the Pennsylvania Culinary Art Program in 1999. He completed his externship at the Milton Inn in Sparks, Maryland, later becoming their Sous Chef. In order to expand his knowledge of various cuisines, Chef Lewis worked as Sous Chef at Linwood’s as well as Executive Chef at The Brass Elephant. After his time at the Brass Elephant, he moved on to the DC restaurant scene working at 701 Restaurant and Againn Tavern. Chef Lewis joined Iron Bridge Wine Company in 2011, and his love of food is evident in his unique use of local ingredients and “from scratch” philosophy. He was assisted by Lee Marziale Jr. (Sous Chef) and Tyler Skinner (Chef’s Assistant).
Chef Handel attended culinary school in San Francisco at California Culinary Academy. He has served as chef and sous chef in several local restaurants including Tabrizi’s and Coburn’s Tavern, as well as working with other restaurants and catering services including Chef’s Expressions and Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion. He was assisted by Kyle Fischer (Sous Chef) and Ryan Carder (Chef’s Assistant).
This was battle Greece featuring the following products:
- Leg of lamb and lamb cheeks from Marcho Farms
- Garlic Sauce from Tulkoff
- Jumbo Kalamata olives, Greek orzo, Greek olives, and grape leaves from Roland Foods
The night’s Happy Hour featured wine maker Boordy. Guests will taste both red and wine wines from the Boordy wine maker.
Chef Lewis (Black Team) prepared the following dishes for battle Greece:
- Appetizer: Braised Lamb Cheeks with pearl onions and Gremolata Vinaigrette. The cheeks were tender and the Gremolata Vinaigrette was smooth and full of flavor
- Entrée: Seared Lamb Leg Roulade and Orzo Risotto. The start component of this dish was the creamy Orzo Risotto. The lamb was moist and nicely cooked.
- Dessert: Loukoumades – Chantilly Cream, apple chutney with Madeira. Similar to a donut hole. These “donut holes” weren’t heavy and cream and sauce were both nicely done.
Chef Jirat (Red Team) prepared the following dishes for battle Spain:
- Appetizer: Dolmades – Fried stuffed grape leaves, Lamb Rilette, Babaganoush, Roasted Pepper Chevre Fondue. The fried grape leaves were something new and amazingly full of great flavor. The Rillette was a bit tough but the flavor was there.
- Entrée: Lamb Pastitsio- Braised lamb cheeks, Spinach Spaetzle, Smoked Honey Root Vegetable, Curry Demi, and Grain Mustard Buerre Blanc. These cheeks were perfectly cooked and the Spaetzle was perfect.
- Dessert: “Baklava” – Phyllo, Almond Chocolate Mousse, Pistachio Brittle, Macerated Raspberries and Captain Crunch Sauce with a drink with Ouzo, Rosemary Strawberries, Strawberry Vodka and Grand Marnier. The star of this dish was the brittle. The mouse had a nice flavor but would have been better if it was a bit fluffier and the drink was a nice combination of flavors.
Both teams offered some of their best, but congratulations goes to Chef Christopher Lewis of Iron Bridge Wine Co.! Chef Lewis moves on and will be competing on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 against Mark Dunaway from Regi’s American Bistro with battle Latin America.
I will be judging next on July 29, 2013 – Jeff Keeney (The Point in Fells) vs Billy Hughes (Barracudas Restaurant and Bar)
Tickets for this live, interactive, local event are on sale now at www.masondixonmasterchef.com and are just $25 for General Admission, $45 for Judge Experience (where guests get to taste the entrees and vote on the winner) with 10% of the net proceeds going directly to Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland.